Before Petunia was born, in the final months of my pregnancy, I would often sit on Pumpkin's bed after she had (finally) fallen asleep and feel an overwhelming wave of guilt for the changes I was about to bring to her world. I assumed that the new baby would bring abrupt and significant changes to her beloved bedtime routine. I thought that Pumpkin would feel left out in the new family dynamic.
That is not what has happened at all. Pumpkin has adjusted really well to having a new baby in the house, perhaps because the baby is so easy-going as to barely disrupt her routines. She still has the same bedtime routine- Petunia is sound asleep before Pumpkin's routine even begins, having gone down ridiculously easily at about 7 p.m.
In fact, most of the time, I feel guilty for Petunia, who is not getting the same sort of babyhood as Pumpkin did. Pumpkin played on the floor with me every morning, while I ate my breakfast. Petunia gets this sometimes, if she wakes up early and Pumpkin wakes up late, but mostly she sits in her bouncy chair and chews on a teether (or "teeter" as Pumpkin calls it) while Pumpkin and I eat our breakfasts. Pumpkin got our undivided attention when we got home from work, since we postponed our own dinner until after she was in bed. Petunia sits in her bouncy chair after I get home from work, while I rush around the kitchen trying to get dinner ready so that we can all eat together before Pumpkin's bedtime. (Pumpkin watches Dora during this time, an arrangement I no longer feel bad about at all, although I do still have to reappear to dance to the "We Did It!" song with her.)
Petunia is such a laid back little baby. She often gets left on her mat to play on her own while we tend to Pumpkin, our intense little girl. I sometimes wonder what Petunia must think of the whirlwind of activity and the often screeching little girl at the center of it all. ("No! I don' want to go potty with you Daddy! Mommy goes potty with me!")
Petunia does cry out if she is left alone too long and gets lonely, and as often as not, it is Pumpkin who goes rushing to her to cheer her up. And the sight of Pumpkin almost always does cheer Petunia up. Petunia smiles at me when she sees me at day care, but bounces with joy when she sees Pumpkin. If Pumpkin sleeps in (a rare event), Petunia gets fussy when her usual wake up time passes and she has not appeared, then calms down and smiles when Pumpkin comes running down the hall.
Hubby and I try our best to do right by Petunia. We make a point of reading her bedtime stories every night, even though she would happily go to sleep without them. We try to split up some on the weekends, to give Petunia some one-on-one time with a parent, without the noise and distraction that is always around when Pumpkin is present. But the fact is, Petunia demands less of us than Pumpkin does, and so, sometimes, she gets less. I am very glad that she had 5 months of spending her days at home without Pumpkin (Pumpkin was in day care), when her needs and wants could dictate the schedule, and I feel guilty that she almost never gets time like that now.
So the guilt I don't feel about Pumpkin isn't gone- it is just transformed into guilt for Petunia, and this probably explains why I worry that maybe I should be doing more to challenge her to learn new skills.
But last week, the tables turned a little bit, and I got a glimpse of what the life I had expected would have been like. Petunia was going through her 6 month growth spurt, and waking up far more often than usual in the night. By Saturday, I was exhausted during the day. I longed for sleep so badly that I could taste it- a sensation all too familiar to me from Pumpkin's baby days. Pumpkin, in the meantime, continued her potty regression at home, despite her return to using the potty at day care. I could clearly see that what she needed was a patient and playful Mommy, who would help coax her to go potty more often. What she got was a tired, grumpy Mommy, who demanded that she go potty! Right now! This approach didn't really work, resulting in more accidents. And it wasn't like Petunia was getting quality mothering, either- she mostly got a bleary-eyed Mommy who either fumbled around and nursed her or waved a rattle in her face.
Then, starting Saturday night, things returned to normal. Petunia only woke up once. (For some reason, Pumpkin woke up once each night, too, but not until almost morning, so that wasn't too disruptive of my sleep.) Today, I felt better, and after work, I was able to turn Pumpkin's sudden obsession with her play phone into a game and get her to the potty before she had an accident. We even took a post-dinner walk around the block with both kids. So I guess I should stop feeling bad for Petunia- any slight she is experiencing is due to birth order, and not her personality. If anything, things could only be worse.